By JONAS TERRADO
National women’s football team coach Marlon Maro sees a doable chance for the Philippines to secure a World Cup spot if everything falls into place in preparations leading up to the AFC Women’s Asian Cup.
The Asian Cup slated late January 2022 in India will serve as a qualifier for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, and Maro is hoping to head into the competition with a roster capable of fulfilling that ultimate goal.
“I see good chances na makuha natin ngayon,” Maro said during the virtual session of the Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum, basing his performance of the Pinay booters during the Women’s Asian Cup Qualifiers a few weeks ago in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
“That’s why we would like to strengthen the lineup to make sure na we can be one of the teams that can get the available slots of the AFC in the World Cup,” added Maro.
Five World Cup slots are at stake in the competition while Australia is already assured of being the co-host of the competition along with New Zealand.
Teams that enter the quarterfinals will qualify for the World Cup while the remaining spot or spots depending if Australia gets past the group stage will be determined through a repechage playoffs.
North Korea’s absence has opened one door for the Philippines to qualify, said Maro, who believes that Japan, South Korea and China are virtually assured.
That leaves the door for the Philippines to fight the other spots with Southeast Asian teams Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia and Iran, plus the winner of the playoff between Taiwan and Myanmar.
Maro said the core of the Asian Cup Qualifiers, including goalscorers Tahnai Annis and Chandler McDaniel and main keeper/team captain Inna Palacios, will be back for the upcoming event while Quinley Quesada and Sarina Bolden are likely to reinforce the squad.
Quesada and Bolden didn’t see action in the Tashkent sojourn due to their commitments with their professional clubs in Japan’s upstart league WELeague.
The biggest obstacle for the team is if it can prepare as early as possible for the Asian Cup as restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Maro said the squad continues to work on hopefully have the whole roster in California for a training camp starting November, but issues on how to secure US visas serve as a major stumbling block.
It was the same dilemma that forced the team to split its Asian Cup Qualifiers buildup with the California camp and a virtual session for players who were left behind in Manila.
“Yung situation namin, magka-iba yung training especially yung mga locals na nandito sa Manila via Zoom meeting lang,” said assistant coach Aps Barinan of the setup which was facilitated by strength and conditioning coach Reed Sajonia.
“Mahirap talaga kasi kailangan ng match fitness, but mabuti yung mga players pagdating sa Uzbekistan nakapag-adjust agad,” she added.